April 2, 2019 / 7:21 PM / 8 months ago

Predators' Watson returning from 27-game suspension

Nashville forward Austin Watson will make his return from a suspension of more than two months for alcohol abuse when the Predators visit the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Jan 19, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson (51) celebrate after a goal during the third period against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters after Tuesday’s morning skate that Watson will play against the Sabres.

“He played really well down in Milwaukee,” Laviolette said of a minor league stint in which Watson scored four goals in two games. “He came back (from the suspension) in good shape. Just looking at him practicing, you could tell he was in great shape.”

Watson is looking forward to getting back on the ice. He missed Nashville’s past 27 games due to the suspension.

“I’m definitely excited,” Watson said in a video on the team website. “It’s been a little while. I was fortunate to get a couple games under my belt in Milwaukee and just try to come in here and play my game.”

Watson had 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 34 games when he was suspended on Jan. 29.

Watson was admitted into Stage 2 of the NHL’s substance abuse and behavioral health program, according to the NHL and NHL Players’ Association.

It was Watson’s second suspension of the season. He missed the first 18 games after pleading no contest to a domestic assault charge in July. Watson was initially suspended for 27 games by the NHL, but an arbitrator reduced it to 18.

In a mid-January Instagram post, Watson acknowledged personal battles with alcoholism, depression and anxiety, saying he had been sober for nearly two years before drinking again in May of 2017.

He received probation for the June 16 incident in which officers found him and girlfriend Jenn Guardino in a parked car near a gas station in Franklin, Tenn., just south of Nashville.

Watson acknowledged pushing Guardino during an argument. When officers noticed red marks on her chest, Guardino said Watson caused them, and he was arrested.

In October, Guardino took the blame for the incident, saying in her statement, “Austin Watson has never, and would never hit or abuse me. My behavior and state of intoxication led to the police being involved that day.”

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